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Is Anna Really India?

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By Zoravar Gill:

India’s anti-corruption crusader is now a global figure. He finds himself on the cover pages of the world’s leading newspapers and is even being referred to as the new age Gandhi by his supporters. Anna Hazare is no longer just a social activist- he is a man who has charged millions of people, given them hope of living in a corruption-free country and in the process earned their unflinching support.

Add to that his impeccable integrity and a drive for fighting corruption that makes Batman look laid back, and you have a true hero in your midst. But in his efforts to cleanse the system, Anna Hazare has held the government to ransom with demands that are blatantly undemocratic in nature- and THAT’S where the problem begins.

From a distance, the Lokpal Bill looked like exactly what India needed. It would keep a check on those who ran the nation, and punish those who tried to siphon-off any money that actually belonged to the government’s coffers. But it was also a classic case of something being too good to be true. A closer look at the clauses of the Bill confirm the fact that the Bill only further complicates an already complex Government structure.

The fundamental issue with the Lokpal Bill is that it assumes that there exists a way of selecting a group of honest officials who will constitute the Lok Pal. More so, the question of monitoring the powerful in the country is not even addressed -for all this Bill is doing is creating an even more powerful set of people. It’s like curing a diabetic by feeding him chocolate.

There is no doubting the fact that corruption is one of the biggest obstacles that India faces in its economic development. But one has to consider whether the bill actually attacks the root of the problem. By setting up an unaccountable body like the Lokpal, it furthers the very cause for corruption- the centralisation of intense power.

The draft Bill will create a Lokpal that will make and implement laws as well as punish those who break it, hence making it one of the most powerful constitutional bodies to have ever existed. The appointment of the Lokpal will be done by a panel consisting of several different kinds of people- Bharat Ratna awardees, Nobel prize winners of Indian origin, Magasasay award winners, Senior Judges of Supreme and High Courts, the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the Chief Election Commissioner, and members of the outgoing Lokpal board, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and Speaker of the Lok Sabha. In this entire body, only one person, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, is a democratically elected person. No other person on this panel is accountable to the public in any way. As for ‘Nobel Prize Winners of Indian Origin’ they need not even be Indian citizens.

The removal of the Lokpal from office isn’t a democratic procedure either. Complaints will be investigated by a panel of supreme court judges.

The setting up of the institution of the Lokpal needs to be seen,” not as the deepening, but the erosion of democracy.” As is evident, this move simply provides you with a situation wherein India will essentially be ‘ruled’ by people, who though highly successful in their respective fields, could potentially have zero experience in policy/ law making.

Even for those who believe in the Lokpal, it must be understood that the move has to be implemented in a democratic manner. To ensure that the bill gets passed, Anna Hazare has protested and fasted, with millions to give him support. While we certainly do have the right to protest, it is important that we dont abuse our rights by using them unwisely. You have the freedom of speech but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to scream “Bhaag Bhaag DK Bose” in an old neighbourhood in the middle of the night. Besides, it is known by all that no one has the right to take life, and the goverment can legally arrest him for ‘fasting unto death’- whatever may be the reason. It is after all, a form of suicide.

Unconstitutional methods like protests and satyagraha are best avoided, for they are simply a form of anarchy. Let’s assume for a moment that Aruna Roy decides to also fast till her Lokpal Bill is tabled in Parliament. Where does that leave us?

Fast unto death is political blackmail. It is a form of theatre used to earn the sympathy of the masses and apply pressure on a govenment to act hastily and often for the worse in order to tranquilise the present situation. Whatever may be the cause, a single person cannot be allowed to dictate laws to the whole nation.

Take a look at today’s newspaper front pages and you’ll see thousands of people gathered at various locations round the country. Now think of all the violence these people could inflict. It’s a scary thought. Incensing a mob is the worst thing you can do in a country like India. True, most of the people who comprise these massive crowds are probably peace loving people who genuinely believe in the bill, but it doesn’t take too many miscreants to wreak havoc. Such a happening is an avoidable calamity and it it’s best the government tries to do everything within its power to maintain law and order.

In the real world, it is foolish to expect 100% clean and honest politicians. “The real world challenge is to achieve good governance with imperfect constitutions, imperfect institutions, imperfect leaders and imperfect citizens. This requires us to realise that individuals respond to incentives.” If we remove incentives for taking or giving bribes, then corruption will be lowered.

Whatever may be the claims made by the people promoting Lok Pal, there is no miracle solution. We all receive text messages telling us we can loose oodles of weight in no time with zero exercise, but it is known that in the long run, they only cause problems a lot graver than the initial one- that of being overweight. Ditto with the Lokpal.

I wouldn’t call myself a cynic, but I’m definitely not an Anna Hazare fan. I understand that like every English cricketer currently playing against India, he’s in the zone right now and I know his intentions are noble and that he is fighting a battle against corruption. But I find it shocking that most people haven’t bothered to understand the Bill- the very thing he stands for.

Switch on Times Now and you see images of large crowds waving the flag with the National Anthem playing in the background. Its a cause for concern. The media had the responsibility of serving as a medium for debate, where logic would prevail over ludicrousness. Instead, it has turned this entire event into a spectacle.

Anna Hazare has the right intentions, but the wrong methods. You simply cannot root out corruption by adding levels to a command structure. The Lokpal Bill does not tackle any of the root causes of corruption. Instead of controlling the power enjoyed by any individual or group, it proposes the creation of what could potentially be the most powerful constitutional outfit ever, hence furthering the very diseases it aims to cure.

Anna’s critics and supporters can both find more than enough reasons to justify their stand. He is a driven and determined man who hopes to build an India that all of us dream about. But the “do as I say, or I will kill myself”, is fundamentally no different from holding someone at ransom. Anna has used the weapon of fasting to his advantage and the nature of corruption being what it is, no one has vehemently opposed him. But tomorrow if he is to fast for an issue, more sensitive in nature that could affect you aversely- will you still support his methods?

NOTE: 1. It’s wonderful to see the nation coming together for a cause they believe in. However, it woud be extremely arrogant to say that Team Anna members/ supporters are the only Indians who are anti- corruption. No honest Indian is pro- corruption, but that doesn’t mean we all believe in the same methods.

2. Factual data procured from Indiaagainstcorruption.org

Zoravar Gill is an undergraduate student at St. Stephen’s College and an alumnus of Cathedral and John Connon School and St. Mary’s School, Mumbai. He is an avid follower of cricket and tracks developments in the economic world.

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  1. Vijay Kumar

    A thought provoking write up. Certain points brought out really need deep consideration. Certain aspects in this whole subject appeared one sided. Agreed,demanding graft is definitely wrong but what about those, who are also
    in great numbers, are happily ready to offer graft for their wrongful gains. For example,when carefully observed this in day to day life,in general, in market, how many of small traders like hardware shops,chemists provison shops etc. give regular bills/cash memoes. In general,’ kucha chits ‘ or ‘estimates/ quotations ‘ are issues or at all if some customer insists it is mentioned that there will be some extra charge on account of taxes. Apart from this, away from this topic, it is strongly felt that good number of our election candidates do not come with good educational, proven abilities, high moral character and back ground with set QRs. At present for employment in the lowest rank for the Govt jobs we have certain laid out prequalifications but there appears to be no such requirement for contesting an election. If this is done we will have more number of candidates with better analytical mind and capabilities in deciding such matters like lokpal.

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